Which shall it be, Skipper

Plomong

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Chenal de la Helle to Brest, as planned, or L'Aber-Ildut or L'Aber Wrac'h ???

The skipper, returning to France single-handed at the end of a summer cruise in the West Country and the Kingdom of Cornwall, departed Falmouth yesterday evening and is now about 30 miles NNW of the Four Lighthouse, on schedule to reach the Chenal du Four in good time to catch the slack at high water in the narrowest part of the Chenal. In fact, he is just a bit early, maybe by as much as 2 hours.

Wind has been WSW as forecast, 4-5, with a tendency to become more westerly as he approaches the French coast. Swell is about 1.5 m, from the west.

Just now, at 1000, the skipper has picked up a weather forecast on Navtex which indicates a previously unmentioned cold front will be along soon, and will bring stronger winds, force 5-6, gusting 7, from the NW.

He must now decide whether to proceed as planned to Brest, or stop off at L'Aber-Ildut or L'Aber Wrac'h. He has ruled out Trébeurden, Perros Guirec and Morlaix as too far east.

So now, which will it be, skipper ???

All comments welcome, especially those that address the following questions:

A) At what sea state does the Chenal de la Helle become a no-go and a diversion would be preferable ??

B) Bloc Marine says L'Aber-Ildut is "accessible in all weather, and sheltered from all winds". Is this correct ?? What are forumites opinions ??

C) Block Marine says L'Aber Wrac'h is "not recommended with strong swell or N/NW bad weather". What constitutes "strong swell" ?? What constitutes "bad weather" in this case ?? The Cruising Assoc. Handbook says it is "accessible at all times, open to the NW". What are forumites opinions ??

Over to you.

Plomong
 

john_morris_uk

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The Chenal Du Four is nowhere near as bad as has been suggested in some quarters. He will be approaching early - but the wind against tide won't last very long and he will have a very quick passage down with several options for shelter. He could go straight into Brest as it offers good shelter in the approach.

I have been down the Chenal du Four a number of times and you seem to get some shelter from the offlying rocks and islands in my experience.

Normal advice: reduce sail early as the wind on the quarter won't feel as strong as if you are beating into it and if necessary sail down under genoa only and I hope he's got a good autopilot!

Is he on springs or neaps?
 
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Robin

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First off any Navtex forecast will almost certainly be be a general offshore one for 'Biscay' or 'Plymouth' very large areas rather than a local one for where he's headed. The probability is it won't be as bad as Navtex said, but anyway it is quite do-able.

Can't think why Chenal De La Helle is chosen because Chenal Du Four is nearer and a bit easier and not a problem, especially away from Le Four Light immediate area, no need to be close to that unless coming to/from the east like L'Aberwrac'h. Been there plenty of times a bit early on the tide after a fast crossing and frustrating it might be to have tide against he will make progress. Wind against tide is yucky but a 1.5m swell is a mere ripple by NW France standards and the tide is due to turn so will slacken off. Stay away from Platresse (east) as it will be a bumpy bit. Father into the Four and the Islands and rocks provide shelter and kill the swell.

Go for it!

Strong swell in these parts will be 3-5 metres, rideable but you lose power in the troughs under sail and seeing other boats nearby vanish from sight can be disconcerting. I wouldn't fancy trying L'Aberildut because I don't know it well enough, L'Aberwrac'h would be an exciting entry but possible, (we have done it with a 4m swell but less wind) just that is better IMO to carry on through the Four as planned.
 

Plomong

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Thanks, John and Robin, for sharing your experiences.

I had thought that the islands and rocks would give shelter in the conditions given, but was not sure.

I'll keep L'Aber Wrac'h as alternative and L'Aber-Ildut as an emergency stop -- if going for it and want to cop out at the last minute in light of the prevailing conditions.

Plomong
 
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